3 Questions to Consider When Choosing a B2B E Commerce PlatformEnterprise B2B ecommerce is not the same as enterprise B2C ecommerce. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Both scenarios include an online transaction, but too often ecommerce companies that specialize in B2C ecommerce think that just because they have that genre mastered, they can tackle B2B ecommerce without a problem.

I mean, B2B ecommerce is the less complicated ecommerce transaction, right?

Not on your life.

Like fraternal twins, B2B and B2C ecommerce are very similar in many fundamental ways, but they look and act quite differently. Where B2C ecommerce has one type of buyer – the standard consumer – B2B ecommerce has a number of customer types, each with specific requirements for success.

These types include B2B consumers (e.g. where the company plans to use the purchased item or service itself) and distributors/wholesalers who sell the company’s products to other B2B companies but may also sell a competitive product line as well. Sometimes dealers who resell the company’s products for them (think car dealers) order via B2B ecommerce directly from a manufacturer; other times, the orders are placed at the distributor/wholesaler level.

Each of these customer types is entitled to customer-specific pricing and accurate on-site client-level pricing is required in B2B ecommerce. Likewise, specific catalogs of products are often available for specific customers, limiting what the customer can purchase online. Therefore, a B2B ecommerce site should be able to limit which product set a customer sees when they log in based on specific log-in credentials. These are just two specific ways that B2B ecommerce differs from B2C ecommerce. There are many others that I will save for another post.

Today I want to look at three questions that enterprise organizations should consider when choosing a B2B ecommerce platform.

  1. Is the platform built to handle the nuances of B2B ecommerce? Not all ecommerce platforms are created equal—and not all platforms can handle the sophisticated nuances of B2B ecommerce. Make sure that any ecommerce partner you choose has documented successful experience with the B2B site functions your business requires.
  2. Does the solution provide the user experience your customers demand? It used to be that B2B companies could skimp on user experience when creating a B2B ecommerce site. Not anymore. Today’s consumers are savvier to the things that make an ecommerce experience great and they expect to get it every time they log in—even in business transactions.
  3. Is the ecommerce platform integrated with the rest of your business systems? All too often the topic of integration is left to the end of the process and the result is less than positive. Make sure your ecommerce partner understands your business and that they have integrated to a business like yours successfully.

Remember, enterprise B2B ecommerce is not the same as enterprise B2C ecommerce and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is misinformed—or is selling something. Or both.

When choosing a B2B ecommerce platform, make sure that the provider you choose implicitly understands B2B ecommerce and how it works, can accommodate your business rules and workflows, and has experience in successfully integrating with the back-end systems you use.

To learn more about how to make your B2B ecommerce initiative successful, download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.